November 30, 2006

The Trouble with TeleAtlas Maps and What's the Future Direction


I wanted to get this up and posted about what my opinions are on TeleAtlas, and where I think things are going. Many people familiar with the GPS world have come across the dialog that TeleAtlas maps in the US are not as accurate, or are not as up to date as people think they should be. Me included.

From what I have seen, the GPS units that have used NAVTEQ maps are more up to date versus those that use TeleAtlas. I think that TeleAtlas is changing and is on the move to update their maps quickly, making step changes in their accomplishments, and not just small mediocre incremental changes. Why do I think this?

1) TomTom is too big not to demand better quality. TomTom is run by smart people, and is a publicly traded company with an obligation to its shareholders to grow the business. They have been in business in the US long enough to figure out for themselves and for other people to tell them that the maps that they use are not up to date. It is to their advantage to push their business ahead through obstacles that hinder it. I believe that map quality is one of the biggest issues with their US business development and it’s just not sound practice to base a business on an uncompetitive datasource. They have to be pushing for a change.
2) TeleAtlas has implicitly acknowledged this quality outage and is taking a bold step to change with the MapInsight Program. Several months ago, they launched a little noticed program that allowed consumers to go to their website to comment on, or offer corrections on the underlying TeleAtlas maps. I thought it was a big step for them. This system allows them to crowdsource their road capturing to some extent. They still need to get highly detailed information about signage, turning lanes, speed limits etc, but the bottom line is that they are letting the complaining public solve some of their data problems. Beautiful.
3) The Dash Express partnership could eventually yield the digital passive crowdsourced road capturing system. I briefly wrote about this when the Dash people announced their partnership with TeleAtlas, but I’ll say it again. With the two way anonymous communication capabilities of the Dash Express systems (cellular transmitter and WiFi capabilities), it can learn about traffic AND report back the situation on the road where you are. This means that the GPS could eventually send back where you went (again anonymously), and if the system sees that enough GPS users are driving over the exact same blank area as if it were a road, there probably is a new road there. A TeleAtlas van could be dispatched and document the new road. No longer do they have to just comb the world for new roads, the driving records of the GPS units tell them where to go to get them. Pure speculation, nothing has been announced, but the potential is there.

So, what and how long will this take? Well, I would imagine that #1 and #2 are having an impact now, but don’t expect #3 to happen for at least a year, as Dash needs to get its products nationally distributed which isn’t anticipated until Summer 2007. The bottom line is that with these moves, I think that TeleAtlas is changing how they do business in the US, and what was a disadvantage in the US will at least be erased for those companies like TomTom and Mio who use TeleAtlas. Who wins? The consumer does; you and me. I like that.

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Posted by Scott Martin at November 30, 2006 10:26 AM

Recent Comments

Hi I have a mio p550
you can add ontario to outdated POI's & roads
I found on a few roads that bend my mio tells me to turn left or right (no cross roads)
sometimes it selects round about route in stead of direct routes.
when I asked mio if they will update maps or POI's they told me to use another gps program for pocket pc; I guess all p550 owners are on thier own -- shame on you Mio

Posted by: the walrus at July 9, 2008 10:51 PM

The same "bad routing" is happening in Brussels (Belgium Europe). It is not due to the data, but due to Mio navigation routing algorithms. Try a Tom Tom in the same area and you will see the difference. FYO: the data supplier for both Mio and Tom Tom is Tele Atlas.

Posted by: Calin Nitu at March 24, 2007 11:52 AM

The TeleAtlas maps that come with the Mio C310x are not just missing a few small new roads, the routing is completely broken around the Washington DC area. Select any starting point east of and outside the city, and any destination inside the city, and it will calculate a route all the way around the beltway to the west side and then back east to the destination. This problem is most ridiculous when choosing start and destination a few hundred yards apart but the route is 5 miles through the city.

For other areas in MD/VA routing seems to work OK (but is sometimes frustrating to find the right vias to get it to use the roads you plan to drive on). But the DC issues make the unit's routing unusable in that area. Hopefully Mio will upgrade all users when TeleAtlas fixes this problem.

Posted by: Ron at January 8, 2007 5:29 PM
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